Ronnie O’Sullivan shattered two more Crucible records after quickly finishing off his second-round match with Mark Allen on Saturday.
Leading 12-4 overnight, he duly won the opening frame of the session to seal victory and cruise into the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship for the 20th time. That meant he eclipsed the previous best he shared with Stephen Hendry for reaching the last eight.
O’Sullivan’s 71st career win also took him clear for the number of matches won by a single player at the tournament. His ultimate goal in Sheffield will now be to match Hendry’s currently unprecedented total of seven world title wins.
O’Sullivan is now favourite to be crowned champion after setting up a quarter-final clash with Stephen Maguire. But after his clash, signified by a war of words in the build-up, he repeated he has no interest in most of the plaudits that keep coming his way.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” insisted O’Sullivan. “They’re not the kinds of statistics that I’m proud of. The ones that I’m proud of are the majors and that’s about it really.”
O’Sullivan had done all the hard work in the first two sessions of his match against Allen, making their return on Saturday a formality. But he insisted the relatively-effortless nature of his victory belied a tough battle to stay at the top of his game, intriguingly invoking the example of martial arts superstar Bruce Lee.
“It comes down to quite a few years of practice and years of dedication and of trying to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be,” he continued. “If you look at Bruce Lee, he trained for many hours, not just mentally but physically. We’re experts in different fields but I try to approach my sport in a way which is no different.
“It’s not easy – I really struggle with it, to be honest with you. Even when I steam-rollered everyone in 2012, it wasn’t easy. It is all about just playing to have fun, enjoy it and relish every moment even when it’s not going great.”
O’Sullivan will face Maguire in the last eight after the 41-year-old Scot made the most of a borrowed cue to withstand a fightback from UK champion Zhao Xintong. Maguire resumed the final session of their match two frames from victory, but lost four of the first five on Saturday before a break of 59 saw him seal a 13-9 win over the Chinese seventh seed.
And O’Sullivan’s chances of making further history may be boosted by the potential exit of defending champion Mark Selby. He faces a fight to stay alive at The Crucible after he trailed Yan Bingtao 9-7 heading into Saturday evening’s concluding session of their second-round match.
Yan threatened to out-muscle his opponent by taking the first three frames to establish a 7-4 lead. Selby responded with a break of 132 and managed to reduce the deficit to 8-7.
But Yan responded, winning a pivotal last frame of the session. He prevailed in lengthy safety battle to ensure a slender advantage.